The city of Dallas was ready.
After limping off the court during Wednesday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, rumor had it that Rajon Rondo wouldn’t play against his former team, the Dallas Mavericks, on Thursday. During their first game against Dallas on their home turf this season, Rondo was laid out with back spasms and could only watch as the Mavericks took the Sacramento Kings into a thrilling double overtime before Deron Williams clinched the game and put the Kings to bed.
Then word got out that Rondo would indeed face the former city he left hanging during the 2014-15 NBA playoffs.
The crowd wanted blood, even though the precious team they’d take a bullet for had gotten over the Rondo era a long time ago. However, not everything went as planned.
The last time Sacramento won in Dallas, music videos and Ryan Seacrest were still relevant. Non-strippers were wearing body glitter. Flip phones were actually used by people not named Walter White. The last time the Kings trampled the Mavs, it was February 27th, 2003.
Boos echoed throughout the American Airlines Center whenever the oddly animated Rondo so much as glanced at the ball, and were coaxed to their feet with a rousing game of “Hack-a-Rondo” festered in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
For the first three quarters of the game, Rajon Rondo seemed impenetrable to the hoards of chants that floated in his general direction, but during the final minute of the game, Rondo, finally facing the fans that once firmly stood behind him when he was traded to Dallas over a year ago, lifted is arms to egg on the boos and chants, comfortable and jubilant in the fact that his new team – a team he’s thriving with – would walk away with the 104-101 win. A win 13 years in the making.
“He played great,” Rondo’s former sparring partner, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said regarding the point guard’s play. “Their entire team played great. Each guy did what he does, from (Marco) Belinelli to (DeMarcus) Cousins to (Rudy) Gay and straight on down the line.”
Regardless of the loss, the Mavericks knew they had been outplayed and respected the Kings for it.
“Give credit to them,” Dallas guard Wesley Matthews said as he sat in a semi-state of melancholy in the locker room following the loss. “We fell into a trap, into playing the way they did, missed some shots, but we gotta salvage what we did well, and go into Denver and make sure we take care of that one.”
Kings teammates also praised Rondo’s performance in his former house.
“He played excellent,” Kings guard Darren Collison said. “As anyone who would come back and return to their old team, it’s not easy. There are a lot of things going through your mind. You want to play well but he obviously exceeded expectations for what he wanted to do and he enjoyed this night.”
Cousins and Rondo led the visitors in points (22 and 18) while both Rondo and Ben McLemore were extremely aggressive defensively on the perimeter. On the offensive end, McLemore even managed to nearly shatter Williams’ ankles on a dribble that ended in a swift trey in the first half of the game (“Well, that’s gonna be a viral gif” one of the Dallas press members tweeted out. And that it did).
The light at the end of the tunnel for the Mavericks came during the third when they went on a 8-0 run and managed to cut the Kings’ lead to two. Sacramento then built up another lead in the last quarter, but the Mavs weren’t about to give up under their own roof and surged back (and yes, that included hacking the hell out of everyone they managed to come into contact with). But they couldn’t hold on.
In those final seconds, Rondo peered smugly up at the fans, seemingly drinking in their taunts of “RONDO SUCKS”, and smiled.
The once troubled point guard had finally found a home outside of his All-Star years in Boston. A home with a greatly underestimated team. Now that Rondo has finally put all his demons to bed, the city of Dallas can do the same.
The Mavericks head to Denver to face the Nuggets on Sunday night.